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Dictionaries :: Phoenix

Below are articles from the following dictionary:
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia


fe'-niks (Phoinix; the King James Version Phenice): A harbor in Crete (Ac 27:12). The Alexandrian corn ship carrying Paul and the author of Acts, after it left Myra in Lycia, was prevented by adverse winds from holding a straight course to Italy, and sailed under the lee of Crete, off the promontory of Salmone (kata Salmonen). The ship was then able to make her way along the South shore of Crete to a harbor called Fair Havens (Kaloi Limenes), near a city Lasea (Lasaia). Thence, in spite of Paul's advice to winter in Fair Havens, it was decided to sail to Phoenix (eis Phoinika, limena tes Kretes) bleponta kata liba kai kata choron, a description which has been translated in two ways:

(1) "looking toward the Southwest wind and toward the Northwest wind, i.e. looking Southwest and Northwest";

(2) "looking down the Southwest wind and down the Northwest wind, i.e. looking Northeast and Southeast" On the way thither, they were struck by a wind from the Northeast, called Euraquilo, and ran before it under the lee of an island, called Cauda or Clauda (Kauda (Codex Sinaiticus (corrected) and Codex Vaticanus and the Old Latin) or Klauda (Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus, etc.)) in Ac 27:7-17. It will be convenient to discuss those places together. The following account is based on Smith's elaborate study in his Voyage and Shipwreck of Paul, which has been followed by all later writers.

The ship, when it left Myra was obviously making for Italy (Puteoli or Ostia) by the shortest route, round Cape Malea, but off Cnidus it encountered a Northwest wind and had to sail for shelter under the lee of Crete. Salmone, now called Cape Sidero, was the promontory which forms the Northeast corner of the island. Thence along the South shore of Crete, as far as Cape Matala, a sailing ship is sheltered by the mountains from the violence of the Northwest wind; West of Cape Matala, where the coast turns toward the Northwest, there is no such shelter. Fair Havens must therefore be looked for to the East of Cape Matala, and there is a harbor, lying 6 miles East of Cape Matala, which is called Fair Havens by the modern Greek inhabitants of the island. There is no doubt that this is the harbor in which the Alexandrian ship took shelter. It is sheltered only from the North and Northwest winds.

The ruins of a city which has been identified with Lasea have been found 5 miles East from Fair Havens, and 12 miles South of the important city of Gortyna. It has been suggested that Paul's desire to winter at Fair Havens (Ac 27:10) may have been due to its proximity to Gortyna, and the opportunity which the latter city afforded for missionary work. There were many Jews in Gortyna.


From Fair Havens, against the advice of Paul, it was decided to sail to Phoenix, there to pass the winter. While the ship was on its way thither, it was struck by a violent Northeast wind from the mountains, called Euraquilo, and carried under the lee of an islet called Cauda or Clauda. When this happened, the ship was evidently crossing the Bay of Messariah, and from this point a Northeast wind must have carried her under the lee of an island now called Gaudho in Greek and Gozzo in Italian, situated about 23 miles Southwest of the center of the Gulf of Messariah. The modern name of the island shows that Cauda (Caudas in the Notitiae Episcopatuum), and not Clauda is the true ancient form.

The writer of Ac never saw Phoenix, which must have been a good harbor, as the nautical experts decided to winter there (Ac 27:11). Now the only safe harbor on the South coast of Crete in which a ship large enough to carry a cargo of corn and 268 souls could moor is the harbor beside Loutro, a village on the South coast of Crete, directly North of Cauda. All the ancient authorities agree in placing Phoenix in this neighborhood. The harbor at Loutro affords shelter from all winds, and its identification with Phoenix seems certain. But a serious difficulty arises on this view. The words describing the harbor of Phoenix ordinarily mean "looking toward the Southwest and the Northwest," but the harbor beside Loutro looks eastward. This led Bishop Wordsworth to identify Phoenix with an open roadstead on the western side of the isthmus on which Loutro stands. But this roadstead is not a suitable place for wintering in, and it is better either to take the words to mean, in sailor's language, "looking down the Southwest and Northwest winds"-a description which exactly fits the harbor at Loutro-or to assume that the reporter of the discussion referred to in Ac 27:10-12 or the writer of Ac made a mistake in describing a place which he had never seen. An inscription belonging to the reign of Trajan found at Loutro shows that Egyptian corn ships were wont to lie up there for the winter.

Written by W. M. Calder


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